Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Whitton's Rogue Landlord Hit with BIG Fine!

A rogue landlord has had £112,500 in illegally gained rent confiscated after being convicted three times for breaching planning enforcement notices following three Richmond Council prosecutions.

Piara Singh Sehajpal did not have planning permission to operate three houses as flats. He was fined £21,000 after being convicted of breaching the enforcement notices under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.  

At Kingston Crown Court, Her Honour Judge Georgina Kent was told by Richmond Council prosecutors that father of four Mr Sehajpal had rented rooms at around £800 per month each, despite not having planning consent.

Cllr Gareth Elliott said: "This is a win for common sense. It is high time landlords who abuse the system for personal gain to the detriment of those around them pay the price. Whitton's unique character must be preserved and the conversion to multiple flats of what had been family homes was not in keeping with the tranquil and pleasant family atmosphere of Rydal Gardens. This win is a testament to the people power of the resident's of Rydal Gardens who have campaigned consistently for this outcome."

Cllr Virginia Morris, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning, said: “This is the best outcome we could have hoped for. People may think planning is frustrating and time consuming, but planning laws must be complied with. This case absolutely proves planning enforcement prosecutions do have teeth and can make a difference when required, especially when coupled with the new Confiscation Orders created by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

“Neighbours have no doubt been concerned about how these houses have been used and I am pleased we can now explain to them what has been happening and how it has been dealt with. It will also serve as a very sharp reminder to other landlords thinking they can try to dodge the law. Planning rules exist for a reason and we will always do our utmost to ensure they are upheld.”

The three houses were 12 Rydal Gardens, Whitton, which had been split into four flats; 29 South Road, Twickenham (nine flats) and 4 Palmeston Road, Twickenham (three flats).
Each property was subject to a separate Planning Enforcement Notice that allowed six months for the property to be returned to a family home. Planning Enforcement Officers visited them and wrote to the defendant so he was aware of the correct planning consent required.
Mr Sehajpal admitted three offences in front of magistrates last year and in March 2011 of breaching three Richmond Council enforcement notices requiring him to return the properties to single homes, contrary to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. His case was transferred to Crown Court for sentencing and for a confiscation order to be dealt with.
When he appeared before the crown court judge last week, he was sentenced to a fine of £7,000 per offence, amounting to £21,000.
He was further ordered to pay £9,973 towards the Council’s prosecution costs. Mr Sehajpal must pay the full amount within 12 months and was told if he did not, he would face 18 months in prison.
Under section six of the Proceeds of Crime Act, on Friday 18 November the Judge also ruled a Confiscation Order for £112,500 should be issued against Mr Sehajpal taking away the financial benefit to his offending behaviour through letting out the properties without planning permission.
In his statement, Mr Sehajpal, of Honeysuckle Close, Iver, Buckinghamshire, (dob 1/1/1954) described the offences as “minor breaches of planning law” that were a “matter of naivety” on his part.
In her ruling, Judge Kent said undermining planning controls was offensive to neighbours and caused them distress and upset. The judge said Mr Sehajpal knew he needed consent to convert the three family homes to flats, but had a blatant disregard for planning controls to make money. She accepted he had been of previous good character and took into account his early guilty pleas, but considered it was so serious a breach of planning law that that a significant fine was justified.   

Council moves closer to rejuvenating poolside

A blueprint for the future of Twickenham will be published for public scrutiny next month, Richmond Council Cabinet agreed last night.

At the meeting, members reviewed the Twickenham Area Action plan, a draft document that has been compiled using the results of a number of public consultations regarding the future of the area.

In addition, members also agreed to appoint specialist contractors to carry out work on the final phase of the opening of the old swimming pool site on Twickenham Riverside after 30 years of closure.

The future of the riverside site has been spilt into two phases. The first will look at opening up the rest of the old pool the site by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012, creating a public space for the local community.  The second phase will consider the potential and future of the existing buildings.

Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said “We are grateful to the thousands of local people who have, over the last year, participated in our rolling programme of consultations and meetings regarding the future of Twickenham.

“Over this period, more people have participated directly in shaping ideas for Twickenham’s future than ever before. Neighbourhood planning of this kind, being pioneered here in our borough, is the way to a future shaped by local communities. The days of top-down planning are done. Twickenham people have led the way in generating ideas to improve the wonderful town where they live or work. Now it is time to start making decisions to put community preferences into practice.

“In the latest stage our consultants stimulated debate by setting out three sample scenarios for the area. None of these was a blueprint in itself, but through them we were able to stimulate further discussion on the revival of the town. Residents can now take a final look at the draft plan and see how their views have been inputted into a future vision for the Twickenham.

Cllr Virginia Morris, Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning said: “We have always known one of the key sites for improvement in Twickenham was the swimming pool site on the riverside. Over the past 30 years there have been a number of proposals for the area and we are determined to find a finally resolve the future of this derelict eyesore.
“We will now work with contractors to clear and open the back of the site so it becomes an open and inviting area - a lasting legacy for the community in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.”
Over the summer, three scenarios were put forward as part of the development of a Twickenham Area Action Plan, each looking at various options for improvement.

The results of the consultation showed at least 75 per cent of respondents supported most of the suggested objectives.  Different aspects from each of the scenarios had varying levels of support but there was considerable support for enhancing the retail environment, public realm improvements and proposals to reconfigure the road space to reduce the impact of through traffic to make crossing the roads easier.

The draft plan uses this information and outlines the Council’s strategy for improving Twickenham over the next 15 years. Further information regarding the consultation on the Plan, will be published in the next few weeks.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Planning Activity Update - Car Showroom Site

UPDATE: After the previously failed attempt to renovate the car showroom in the middle of the High Street it appears if things are moving again.

Will update with more information as it becomes available.


Beat the crooks: return memorial to glory

A public meeting and discussion has been organised by the borough’s Mayor so Twickenham residents can discuss the future of the Radnor Gardens War Memorial.

The meeting will take place at 8pm on 21 November at Radnor House School. Chaired by the Mayor, Cllr Clare Head, anyone will be able to suggest ideas and comment on the Council’s own suggestions for the memorial.

The memorial was targeted by vandals on October 20 when a large brass plaque depicting a World War One Naval scene was stolen, leaving the memorial bereft for this weekend’s Remembrance Sunday wreath laying.

Cllr Head said: “Stealing from a war memorial is a despicable thing to do, especially so close to Remembrance Sunday. We were shocked that anyone would denigrate the memory of those who have died to make this the free country it is today.

“Out of this disgraceful act though must come some good, so I want to know what people think we should do about the memorial when we repair it. Should it reflect modern views, as well as those of our great, great grandparents who originally raised money for the memorial to be built in 1921?”

People’s views are also wanted on whether the Council should remove the other two bronze plaques and put them in a museum for safekeeping. In this case replicas would be installed on the memorial.

The Council will not take any action until local people have had the chance to say whether the memorial should be repaired to its former state, or whether it should be changed. The authority will also work with the War Memorials Trust and the Royal British Legion to make sure all proposals are acceptable to them.

As well as taking part in the public meeting at Radnor House School, people can also send their views to the Mayor between now and Friday 2 December.  Residents can email mayors.office@richmond.gov.uk, or write to Mayor’s Office, Richmond Council, Richmond Road, Twickenham.

Richmond Borough to receive Olympic Torch - TWICE!

The London Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has confirmed that the Olympic Torch Relay will visit the borough on the 24th and 27th July 2012, being one of the only boroughs in London that will see the torch twice.

As part of its tour around the UK, the Olympic Torch will visit over 1,000 villages, towns and cities, including all London boroughs.  Whilst LOCOG have made this commitment to Londoners, no additional funding has been provided to local areas to meet the costs of hosting the parade.

Cllr Lord True, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“I am very happy that Richmond upon Thames has been included in this prestigious event. And I am sure that residents around the borough will enjoy the experience.  But sometimes the bureaucrats in charge of these bodies seem to forget that Londoners, alone of the 1000 places to be visited, are already paying for the Olympics.

“I have no doubt that given the international reputation of our beautiful borough many spectators and visitors from around the world will gravitate to the Borough to see the torch.

Cllr Elliott said:

"It is fantastic that Richmond Borough can play its part in the global sporting event that is the Olympics. It is an honour to receive that Torch and I look forward to welcoming it through our towns and villages."